July 19, 2005

Immigration and Minimum Wage

Eric Grumbles about immigration, JohnL likes the article. Gullyborg has a different take. [although maybe not that different]

My thoughts:
(1) I don't know if I believe it's impossible to improve security through tightening our borders. On one hand, terrorists trying to come in likely would know ways through the border better than the average mule. On the other hand, I don't know that the example of the USSR's difficulties with its borders applies to our situation, given improvements in various technologies.

(2) The "businesses like illegal immigration because it lets them circumvent minimum wage laws" idea [not made explicitly, but I think that's the thrust of the argument]: I am somewhat doubtful. US map with minimum wages here. Wikipedia entry on minimum wage here; currently tends towards agreeing that minimum wages reduce employment. Coyote Blog has a long post about his experiences with minimum wage. Democracy for Oregon has a post refuting the illegal immigration minimum wage link. [source possibly suspect]

Basically, I have no problem with the concept that a high minimum wage decreases employment, and no problem with getting rid of the minimum wage. One problem is that even with that, there would still be times in which it would be better to hire someone who can't run to the authorities.

(3) Immigration is good, so we should aim for unlimited legal immigration. Hmm. If we implement other parts of what I expect are Eric's plans for how to fix the world, maybe. I agree that immigration has had a very positive effect on this nation, and it continues to have a positive effect. I believe that nearly all immigrants have hopes to get a good job, and live a better life than they can get in their home country. I am a little concerned that if we open unlimited legal immigration, that may not be the case. If the country is being run under libertarian principles, it won't matter much, but if not, how much health care and education and food stamps, etc, are we paying for?

(4) All right, my stance. I have two concerns. (1) Safety, in view of the war on terror. (2) Having laws on the books that we are not enforcing, and in fact are blocking enforcement, is a bad idea. For example, see the Houston Police Force's response to the Minutemen planning to videotape day laborers.

I agree, the government has done some things in the name of the war, that can't possibly improve our safety. I don't know whether or not trying to reduce illegal immigration falls into that category.

I am for increasing legal immigration. I don't know if I am for increasing permanent workers, who would be aiming towards becoming citizens [if no other way, in the next generation]. I have heard it said that immigrants are joining the mainstream culture as fast currently as they have in times past. I don't know if I believe that.


Posted by Owlish at July 19, 2005 06:09 PM | TrackBack

Hey Owlish, quick points

1. No matter how you guard the border (all 5 or 6 thousand miles of coast and 5,000 land miles) it is going to be flat out impossible to prevent a truly determined organization from getting people illegally across the border. As noted, the USSR tried, and failed, so did (and does) China.

2. The minimum wage reduces employment but it does not reduce the need for the work to be done. There is a tremendous amount of illegal labor (that's a horrible term) being done in this country for less than minimum wage. Now, are there folks who are hiring illegals because they can't go to the law? Of course. That isn't the question though. That will exist either way.

3. I think (although I haven't done enough research to say this categorically) that the vast majority of legal immigrants are a net gain to the GDP, not a net loss. So the "paying out of social benefits" argument, in my estimation, is not a particularly good one.

Posted by: Eric at July 20, 2005 12:52 AM
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